Star Wars: A Geek’s Tale: Episode XVI

Celebration III
Day 1
April 21, 2005

ciicrowneThe Crowne Plaza Hotel in Indianapolis prides itself on being a part of historic Union Station and makes its patrons aware of the fact that Union Station is still a working railway station. Trains passed through all night, sending vibrations and sounds throughout the entire building. The Crowne Plaza considers these emanations to be ambience. The word “nuisance” would have been more accurate.

The “ambience” made it sound as if Indianapolis was experiencing an earthquake. Adding to the noise was a crying child in the room next door. None of this did me any good since I’ve become a rather light sleeper in my advancing age.

At 5:30 I decided to give up on getting more sleep so I turned on the TV. WTHR Channel 13 had a crew outside the convention center covering the growing line. Chuck Lofton, the morning weatherman, kept making references to “an invasion in sector TD-38” (or some such number) and “transporting” to the scene, obviously having fun at the expense of all of us geeks. I might be a geek, I thought, but I still have all my hair, you bald —hole. Location reporter Tree Boy (honest to God, that’s his on air name) was on the scene covering the line. He was having fun with the fans in line and treated them with respect.

The weather radar showed that rain had passed through the city within the hour. It appeared that we would be in the clear the rest of the day, so I went through my morning routine to get ready, checked to see that my backpack had everything I needed for the day and left to get in line.

The normal people line was very short, maybe less than fifty people. The fan club line stretched around the corner of the building.

I knew it was a tremendous risk, but I went into the Marriott across the street from the fan club entrance to get a cup of Starbucks. Going solo in line for more than four hours with a bladder full of coffee was not a very good idea, but I like living on the edge. Star Wars fans are so line crazy that there was even a line of at least 30 people at Starbucks. I had to wait more than 20 minutes just to get a cup of coffee. I bought an Indianapolis Star and managed to take care of business before leaving the Marriott. Hopefully that would prevent the need to go while in line.

ciiilineThe line snaked around the corner of Maryland Street and West Street, wrapping around the northwest corner of the convention center. The line seemed to go on forever as it went up some steps at the center’s southwest corner. The steps led to the roof of one part of the convention center. Thankfully, the end of the line was just past the top of the steps. There was a serpentine queue on the roof that led towards the RCA Dome. Within an hour, that queue was filled and the line extended beyond my line of sight.

It was now 8:00. The doors wouldn’t open for another four hours. I called Jerry at work to tell him what a loser I was. The rest of my wait would be spent reading the newspaper or book that I brought. It was difficult to concentrate on my reading so I passed some more time by checking out some of the costumes. The specific characters I saw were Yoda, a few Jango and Boba Fetts, Kit Fisto, Jocasta Nu, Zuckuss and several Darth Vaders. The most common costumes were stormtroopers, imperial officers and non-specific Jedi. While there were a lot of costumes, there weren’t nearly as many as I expected. Then ones I did see gave me a good laugh or two.

There was nobody around me that I wanted to speak to. I was surrounded by two dorks, a guy who only spoke Spanish (and kept encroaching on my personal space) and a basement dweller who came with his mother. It was difficult to filter out the numerous conversations going on around me. It was also difficult to filter the gas that somebody was letting loose (and no, it wasn’t me.) The worst was the basement dweller dissecting scenes from the movies, and his mother who wanted five minutes alone with Han Solo.

I tried to go into a meditative state. It didn’t work.

The line would occasionally move as security tried to make the line more compact. This stopped when I was standing at the top of the steps. This provided an excellent view of the costumed freaks standing on the sidewalk, posing for cameras and being interviewed by TV crews.

The thing that I took the most notice of was the reaction of the youngsters to the freaks. Kids ranging in age from three to six thought the costumed freaks were the real deal. Shouts of “Mommy! Daddy! There’s [insert character name here]!” were very common. Parents were busy taking their children’s pictures with the various characters. My attitude towards the fans in costume radically changed.

A collective cheer ran back through the line when the doors finally opened at 12:00. It took ten minutes before I could start moving and thirty minutes to get inside. While I made my way to the entrance I looked through the program guide to formulate a plan for the day. I chose to go to the Celebration Store first and get that out of the way.

Once inside I headed straight away for the line to the store. It seemed that everybody else had the same idea. I stood in that line for more than three hours before I had my stash of junk. The three hours went by slowly but there were some more interesting people to talk to in this line. I spoke to a fan from Pennsylvania. He looked and sounded an awful lot like a thirty-year old Jerry Lewis. The four guys in front of me were all collectors from the Louisville area. We all talked about the various items we like to collect and about our expectations for the weekend and the movie.

ciiivaderThe big item at the store was a talking Darth Vader. James Earl Jones recorded a few lines specifically for the figure, which was exclusive to Celebration III. Fans were able to purchase one figure for each day they had a badge for. I bought four figures, plus a shirt, sweatshirt, badge pin set and a CIII Vader poster. There were a few other items I meant to buy but forgot about. Rather than further enraging the people still in line, I left, figuring I could always come back in the next few days.

It was now 3:30. I was carrying a box and a backpack loaded with crap, still running on the strength of just one cup of coffee that was finished seven hours earlier. I was feeling slightly dizzy and shaky but managed to get back to my room to drop off my junk. I went straight back to the convention center, stopping on the street for a krautdog and a Coke. Refreshed, I was ready for more Star Wars revelry.

My first order of business was to locate Hall B, the site for Thursday night’s opening ceremonies. When I got there I was dismayed to find a line had already started for the ceremonies, a line that went outside and down the street. The ceremonies wouldn’t start for another four freakin’ hours. I refused to wait that long in yet another flippin’ line so I went to the Exhibit Hall.

The Exhibit Hall was home to the many companies selling Star Wars-related items. M&M Mars, Borders, Burger King, Lego and Hasbro were the big names most people would recognize. Dark Horse Comics, Gentle Giant Studios, StarWarsShop.Com, LucasArts and Master Replicas were the names that the fans would recognize. Then there were the names that only the diehards recognized. Surrounding all of these displays were vendors selling their wares. These were mostly small business owners from around the country, owners of comic or hobby shops. The scope of the room was mind boggling, the space between displays was cramped and the crowd was large.

I spent about an hour looking around. Gentle Giant and a nearby company called Code 3 were both selling exclusive limited edition items that I wanted. They stopped selling earlier in the afternoon, rationing them out throughout the weekend. That would be my first stop on Day Two.

I left the Exhibit Hall and located a Papa John’s vendor across the hall. I bought a personal pizza and a Coke and headed for the line for the Opening Ceremonies.

By some freak coincidence, I ended up in line with a guy from work. We work on the same shift but in different departments so we didn’t recognize each other at first. We each had heard that the other would be here. We spoke for a while then got caught up in a conversation with a group of geeks behind us.

I stood in that line for two hours. A pair of security guards told us before the doors opened that we might not make it inside due to the limited capacity of the hall. I knew they were full of beans but a few people in the line began to grumble. Contrary to the warnings, we made it inside with more than half of the seats still available.

ciiiopeningA jazz ensemble played a few selections from the Star Wars soundtracks before the show started. Darth Vader and a Star Destroyer full of stormtroopers entered the hall from the rear of the room and went to the stage. Steve Sansweet, Director of Fan Relations for LucasFilm, was the host. He introduced a few LucasFilm executives who spoke to the crowd about the upcoming movie and Celebration III. One of them showed a video that will be a part of a DVD to be included with the new soundtrack.

Sansweet also introduced a few entertainers who would be performing throughout the weekend: a guy performing a one-man Star Wars show; a group doing “Star Wars in 30 Minutes”; and a musical group doing “Star Wars: The Musical”. Each group did short presentations of their shows.

The Walk of Luminaries was an introduction of the actors from all six movies who were in attendance for the weekend. A video was shown of the actors who couldn’t attend (those still getting work.) Samuel Jackson, Christopher Lee, Natalie Portman, Ewan McGregor, Hayden Christenson and Ian McDiarmid each had a greeting for the fans and expressed their “regret” that they couldn’t be in attendance.

The show ended with an excellent video montage of all six movies called “Celebrate the Saga”. At the end of the video there was an explosion of confetti and a dazzling light show. The ceremony was over and was great. It made the wait in line seem worth it.

The first movie, Star Wars: A New Hope, was being shown on a big screen in another hall. As much as I wanted to watch it, I had to go back to my room. I was tired and my legs were incredibly sore from standing in place all day.

Coming up:
CIII Day 2

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